Mexico suffers most violent year on record at a cost of $268 billion

Peace has declined for the third consecutive year, according to the newly released Mexico Peace Index.

The level of peace in Mexico deteriorated by 4.9 per cent in 2018, with 22 states falling in peace and only ten improving, according to the recently released Mexico Peace Index (MPI).

It was the most violent year on record in Mexico. The deterioration was caused in large part by the 14 per cent rise in the homicide rate, which went from 24 to 27 deaths per 100,000 people. Since 2015, three of the five indicators in the index have deteriorated: homicide, violent crime, and firearms crime.

Mexico continues to underinvest in its criminal justice system, resulting in 97 per cent of crimes going unpunished. The country spends the least of 33 OECD countries on its police and justice system, as a percentage of GDP, and less than half of other Latin American countries. Mexican states had a median of 110 public security officials per 100,000 people in 2017, underscoring the lack of capacity.

The most recent data shows that Mexico has only 3.5 judges and magistrates per 100,000 people, significantly below the global average of 16. This deficit in judges means that fewer cases go before the bench and contributes to the low conviction rates.

The economic impact of violence rose 10 per cent in 2018, reaching 5.16 trillion pesos (US$268 billion), equivalent to 24 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Costs associated with homicide account for 51 per cent of the economic impact. If Mexico could reduce its overall violence to the levels of the five most peaceful states, it could achieve a peace dividend of 2.5 trillion pesos per year, equivalent to more than 11 times what the federal government currently spends on domestic security and justice.

The three states that improved the most in the 2019 MPI – Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Sonora – had government programs specifically designed to address local challenges. All of these programs incorporated intergovernmental agencies in collaboration with companies and civil society.

Corruption remains a major concern for many Mexicans, with almost 70 % of Mexicans thinking that judges were corrupt in 2018, and more than 65 % of Mexicans perceiving the same of the Public Ministry.

Violence affects men and women differently. Men are most likely to be victims of homicide, making up nine out of ten victims, while 44 per cent of women reported that they had experienced violence from their partner sometime during their lives. Youth are more affected by violence than adults, with the homicide rate for youth aged 15 to 29 being 42 per cent higher than that of the general population. During 2018, at least one out of every four victims of human trafficking were children or adolescents.

Disturbingly, there were 850 acts of political violence registered from 1 September 2017 to 31 August 2018, of which 75 per cent were directed at municipal-level political figures and 81 per cent targeted at opposition figures. The highest number of assassinations were recorded in Guerrero and Oaxaca: 32 and 29, respectively. Journalists were also affected by the rising violence. In 2017, 507 cases of attacks against journalists were recorded.

By July of 2018, 389 attacks had already been registered, over 40 per cent more than the same period in the previous year.

The report also analyses the strength of Mexico’s Positive Peace factors. These are the common factors that are associated with highly peaceful societies and consist of eight pillars: well-functioning governmentequitable distribution of resourcesfree flow of information, sound business environmenthigh levels of human capitalacceptance of the rights of others, low levels of corruption and good relations with neighbours. It finds that Mexico is weak in a number of key pillars including the levels of corruption, the functioning of government and the freedom of the media, which are highlighted by the attacks on politicians and journalists.